How nice it is to have friends in the food world. A fairly recent acquaintance of ours is the proprietor of Coco’s Chocolate Cafe on Bardstown Road. We met Fred through mutual friend Judy Witts Francini, who taught Brian and me how to cook in Florence and met Fred while he learned the art of chocolate in Italy. From 4,000 miles away she told me I must go meet Fred i his new shop.
We’ve taken friends and tasted a few of his delectable bites (my favorite the luxurious drinking chocolate) and love sitting in his tiny shop on Bardstown. We stopped in to say hi Saturday morning after the farmer’s market and sat to chat a while over coffee as business was slow that early in the morning. Curious about all things food-related, we fired questions at Fred about his chocolate enterprise and learned that he has 16 recipes on rotation, though not all fit at once in his wonderland of a display case.
“Actually,” he said, “would you be willing to taste two of my new recipes and report back to me?”
Let me think a minute — eat fine chocolate, at no charge, then give my opinion and possibly help shape the menu of one of my favorite places in town. Umm, yes please.
Fred brought out the chocolates in his signature cocoa-colored box and, like a jeweler displaying his finest, showed us what we’d be tasting.
Second was Chocolate covered Almonds — Caramelized almonds surrounded by milk chocolate dusted in cocoa powder.
We took the package home where it taunted me all day while I waited for Fred to email me the questionnaire. At 10:00 at night I could wait no more and we stealthily opened the package and did our tasting. Tasting for a purpose is different than eating just for enjoyment. I was more aware of the flavors, sweetness and texture than I would normally. In particular Fred had asked us to report on what we thought of first. It felt like a cross between a psychological evaluation and a parlor game, but my first thought upon savoring the praline was of a Sunday morning when I was nine. My dad gave me a quarter that morning (a veritable fortune to me) and told me to ride my bike to the store and buy myself the ultimate treat — a Three Musketeers candy bar. That unexpected and rare gift from my dad and the creamy sweetness of the candy bar — an uncommon thrill — remain one of my favorite childhood memories.
Without a questionnaire to complete I simply typed my thoughts in an email and sent them off to Fred. While the Hazelnut Praline was a winner (creamy, lush and a beautiful contrast of crisp shell, smooth cream and fine crunch) I hesitated about sharing my opinion of the Chocolate covered Almonds … I found the cocoa powder bitter and a little messy. Fred asked for honesty though so I gave him the good with the bad.
If my initial email and evaluation completed today prove to be helpful in his pursuit of chocolate nirvana, I may be asked again. One can hope.