Dueling Dishes: ¡Chocolate Mexicano!
Mexican chocolate comes as a shock to those who've never had it. It's not a block of smooth, emulsified, glossy dark shards. It doesn't break like a fancy chocolate bar; it doesn't have a fancy Swiss or Belgian pedigree. It's rustic, but full of soul.
Mexican chocolate is ground with a stone called a mano on a curved volcanic stone called a metate. First the cocoa beans are roasted; then they are ground by hand with the metate y mano; after they break down and start to melt, sugar, cinnamon and almonds are added. The chocolate is set into molds and allowed to harden.
The United States knows just two brands of Mexican chocolate: Ibarra and Abuelita. We won't even get into Abuelita, a Nestle brand; of the two national brands, Ibarra is the finer. But how does it stack up against real, artisanal Mexican chocolate?
Its competitor in this competition is Chocolate Fervi, made by the Fernández family in Jerez, Zacatecas. It isn't available in the United States, sadly; it was procured for me by our resident jerezano, whose great-grandfather created the recipe and whose primos continue to run the company (but Gustavo's branch of Fernándezes doesn't talk to them because of some rancho drama or other).
I almost wish I hadn't tried the Fervi, because I wouldn't have noticed some of the problems with the Ibarra except in comparison to a superior product; perhaps I'll find Fervi lurking in the corner of some expatriate Zacatecano's store in Tijuana someday. In the meantime, the remaining Fervi went into that Zacatecan wonder, asado de boda and for now, I will have to console myself that Ibarra is far superior to that gummy Abuelita brand.
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