There are few foods in this world—in their pure, unadulterated form—more luxurious than chocolate. Oh chocolate…that ancient indulgence, wooing women for ages, brightening lives, enriching holidays for centuries. Our world would not be the same without it.
I’ve bemoaned this fact before, but there is simply no good (or any, for that matter) locally produced chocolate in central Arkansas. It’s truly a shame. I’m confident that someday we’ll see some brave, passionate chocolatier step up and gift Arkansas with the object of our very own cocoa-encrusted dreams. But that day may be some ways off.
But for any interested in partaking in some truly sensational Southern chocolate, there are ways to acquire such an entity. And while we fervently strive to support our local (i.e. Arkansas-based) producers, in this instance, we must look a bit further to the east, to our neighbors in Nashville. Here we find a chocolate producer unlike any other I’ve experienced, a bona fide bean-to-bar operation with a commitment to quality and an obsession with producing the most perfect chocolate possible. I present to you, Olive & Sinclair.
- from oliveandsinclair.com
I had my first Olive & Sinclair chocolate bar a number of months ago. The small, thin package of chocolate lay unassumingly in a small box on the counter at Hillcrest Artisan Meats. As most of you know, walking into HAM and surveying the many goods (cheeses, meats, sweets, spices, jams, etc.) for sale on the counters, shelves, and tucked into display cases is a bit like stumbling upon a cave full of treasure—everything looks magnificent and it seems almost impossible to discern what’s worth picking up and what’s worth leaving behind on any particular visit. (Answer: it’s all worth picking up.) But often, those small Olive & Sinclair bars have caught my eye. A recent birthday justified gifting myself with one of these extraordinary treats. Since my first sampling, after a single bite, I’ve been hopelessly in love.
Olive & Sinclair is no stranger to publicity. They’ve been voted “America’s Best Chocolate” by Southern Living Magazine and been the featured by numerous magazines and television programs. They are the epitome of “artisanal,” though that term seems to have lost some of its luster since every major corporate food producer seems to slap the term on their product in recent years.
Owner, Scott Witherow trained in England at Le Cordon Bleu but returned to Tennessee to dedicate himself solely to chocolate. He’s using single origin beans. Each bar is hand crafted in small batches. Cacao beans are slow-roasted and stone ground. He uses brown sugar rather that white, imparting notes of molasses to the chocolate, giving it a uniquely Southern attitude.
Each bite is deep and rich, robust and earthy. One of the most splendid aspects of the chocolate is its texture. It has an almost granular, gritty center, yet remains smooth and soft when eaten. It’s unlike anything I’ve had before, but it is sensational. Flavors range from the spicy Mexican chocolate with organic Ceylon cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the very popular “salt and pepper” bar. Despite some of the more “unconventional” flavor profiles, rest assured, each is carefully seasoned and the flavors marry well.
You’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you never sampled this chocolate. Get down to HAM and pick up a bar for yourself. You can also order online here.