Tag Archives: chocolate

Museo del Chocolate

3rdarm rick bayless frontera grill staff trip xoco yucatan merida maya uxmal cochinita pibil poc chuc arthur mullen manager

I am a guide for chocolate tours in the US, so every time I get to Mexico my favorite part is learning more about the native cacao. On this trip to the Yucatan (where my restaurant sources our cacao) we visited the Chocolate Museum for a guided tour.

3rdarm rick bayless frontera grill staff trip xoco yucatan merida maya uxmal cochinita pibil poc chuc arthur mullen manager

There were many neat stories I learned from this beautiful, brand new museum. For example, damp, shaded, partially dried up cenotes make the perfect habitat for cacao trees in the Yucatan. And in the days of the Mayan empire, when cacao was currency, ten cacao beans would buy a hare.

3rdarm rick bayless frontera grill staff trip xoco yucatan merida maya uxmal cochinita pibil poc chuc arthur mullen manager

The highlights of the visit were the ancient Mayan rain ceremony, where the priest individually blessed everyone in our group. He lingered extra long over my boss Carlos, who filled up with energy, and in that moment was given his eagle name: Jaguar Paw.

3rdarm rick bayless frontera grill staff trip xoco yucatan merida maya uxmal cochinita pibil poc chuc arthur mullen manager

My favorite part came at the end, with the chocolate talk and tasting. I had never tasted cacao brewed with achiote and no sugar. This chocolate was red as my blood, and as soon as it pumped to my heart, I was ready for the ruins at Uxmal.

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Bloom

nick murway zagat chicago chocolate process photos 3rdarm bill blair xoco arthur mullen art photography

Just in time for the change of seasons, from winter to spring, we hung new photographs in Xoco. They are photographs by Nick Murway, who shot them with Sarah Freeman, for a piece by Zagat Chicago called, “Behind-the-Scenes Chocolate Making at XOCO Chicago.” These photos tell the story of how we make chocolate.

nick murway zagat chicago chocolate process photos 3rdarm bill blair xoco arthur mullen art photography

The famous Bill Blair pieces, such as, “The Flying Torta,” have a new home in the Xoco dining room. All seven Bill Blair dimensions of the Xoco experience will now accompany our guests while they dine.

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La Casa Tropical

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

We woke up to a class by chocolate genius Héctor Galvan at La Casa Tropical: in many ways I felt I was still dreaming. Héctor Galvan’s background in design translates into a trippy, beautiful space, and the creativity to paint pictures of concepts that astounded me, despite my own relatively deep knowledge of cacao.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

As the manager of a restaurant that houses one of the only bean-to-cup chocolate programs in the US, it is part of my job to lead countless chocolate tours, from groups of students to journalists from Zagat, throughout the year. This chocolate talk blew mine out of the water!

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

Héctor’s description will stay with me forever: how it all begins with a flower, how cacao at sea level reaches to sun to pull down the bright, acidic flavors, while cacao in the mountains reaches down to the depths for earthy and complex notes. The team at Casa Tropical kept us comfortable with some of the most delicious food I’ve had.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen la casa tropical

The cacao and sea salt butter, the palette cleansing lemon verbana tea, the sparkling vanilla water, ridiculous bread. I’ll say it again: that Héctor Galvan is a genius.

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Que Bo!

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen que bo

What an awesome chocolate shop by chocolate-genius José Ramón Castillo. We had a chance to meet the master and he gave us a beginners guide to eating truffles and drinking chocolate.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen que bo

The rice milk chocolate, light and toasty, was a revelation.

3rdarm mexico city frontera grill staff trip chicago xoco arthur mullen que bo

The biggest surprise was when I got home and began eating the truffles, maybe it was that I was back in my element and more centered, but I was amazed how good these chocolates are, the perfect craftsmanship, and the pop of flavors. I wish I bought more boxes!

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Quetzalcoatl

xoco chocolate tour 3rdarm cacao tabasco quetzalcoatl

I just finished giving about a hundred people a chocolate tour. It was actually five chocolate tours over 3 weeks. On the tables and counters I had centerpieces of raw cacao, in the agave fiber sacks from the farm by the Gulf of Mexico in Tabasco, Mx. The latitude at which you can grow coffee beans you can also grow cacao beans, and they have similar dietary properties. People on the tour kept eating the bitter beans, which is bad. The farmers let some of the natural sugars from the pod ferment these guys, but they are not sweet.

xoco chicago chocolate tour citysprawl chocolate crawl 2014 3rdarm

At the end of every tour, while the guests enjoy champurrado and a small churro, I told the Promethean story of Quetzalcoatl and the origins of cacao. God of light, he taught the Toltecs how to harvest, roast, grind, drink and trade with cacao beans. Xocolatl was the drink of the Gods, sacred stuff, and they were not happy to see human beings enjoy it. They sent down the God of darkness and night, Tezcatlipoca. In the square, he posed as a merchant and convinced Quetzalcoatl to drink a potion. Queztalcoatl got out of his mind, yelling, dancing.

arthur mullen xoco chicago 3rdarm bill blair the aroma of chocolate mexicana artist art

He woke up the next morning full of regret for humiliating himself, hungover from the intoxicant pulque. Having made a fool of himself before the Gods and people, Quetzalcoatl decided to leave the Toltecs. On his way out of town, he saw all the cacao trees had grown cactus-y barbs and transformed into agave. Quetzalcoatl walked all the way to the sea by the Gulf of Mexico, what is now Tabasco. The God of Light paused at the shore, reached into his pocket and finding a few stray cacao beans, tossed them over of his shoulder, and disappeared.

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Katherine Anne Confections

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This past Sunday afternoon I stopped off at Katherine Anne Confections to try their housemade hot chocolate. I wanted to compare it to XOCO. I must say, they are both excellent and super different. The Mexican hot chocolate I had at Katherine Anne was rich (milk-based) with a heat that builds slowly, both from chile in the chocolate itself and also from the marshmallow I picked.

katherine anne confections mexican hot chocolate 3rdarm

The cost per cup is twice as much at Katherine Anne but you get to choose 2 house-made marshmallows to add to your chocolate, and its a 12oz serving where XOCO is 8oz. I chose the black pepper vanilla marshmallow and a spicy cocoa marshmallow. The hot chocolate is topped with pink peppercorns. The sweet and salty, the rich velvety chocolate and the chew of these amazing marshmallows: I love XOCO’s hot chocolate but I got to get back to Katherine Anne for more!

I bought a bag of marshmallows for my house.

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