I admit it. I’m a chocolate snob. Although I can barely afford it, you’ll always find me in the “gourmet chocolate” section of the candy department at the grocery store, drooling over (and sometimes buying) big dark chocolate bars studded with sea salt, bits of almonds, filled with raspberry fondant, or just plain naked chocolate. It’s always dark–and the label usually reads Lindt, Ghirardelli (their huge 60% dark chocolate chips are to die for) or Green and Black’s. Whatever is available at my local Food Lion, since I lack the funds to visit The Chocolate Fetish downtown, which makes handmade chocolates right on their premises. I won’t even go near that store–because I would lose my mind if set loose in there.
Around the year 2005, Target noticed its female customers were very different than Wal-Mart’s–thin, professional looking women who were attracted to their boldly colorful, minimalist, and trendy home furnishings and decor–the sort of women who would give side-eye to sentimental picture frames featuring an insert for each of baby’s first twelve years, “Footprints” plaques framed in gold-tinged plastic frames, and particleboard/wood veneer furnishings of the type Wal-Mart offers.
Target realized that the commercial boxed chocolates Wal-Mart offers–with Hersheys Pot of Gold, Russell Stover, and Whitmans Samplers being pretty much its highest-end offerings (all too sweet, too bland, and too focused on the milk chocolate)–would not do for these thin upper middle class women who parked their soccer mom SUVs at the Target up the street and wouldn’t be caught dead at Wal-Mart. So Target came out with their own brand: Choxie.
Choxie was packaged in interesting containers and featured “artisan” chocolates that contained things like infusions of green tea, chili powder, espresso, deep red raspberry puree with no added sugar, sea salt, and other unique ingredients and flavors intended to enhance or provide counterpoint to the taste of the chocolate. Some looked like little packages and just like real presents, they always contained a gustatory surprise. Choxie chocolates were also aesthetically pleasing–little works of art featuring colored candy squiggles worthy of Jackson Pollack, inserts of white or mocha or green mint chocolate, or different colored chocolates all swirled together in a way reminiscent of one of those “spin art” cards we old folks used to make at the fair as kids. Their unbelievably delicious raspberry bombs were dusted in a sour raspberry powder to give them bite. I loved the way my fingers turned red after eating a few. All these candies were way too pretty to be eaten, but I ate them anyway, and they tasted as good as they looked.
About a month ago I went back to Target to find them. But no one there even knew what Choxie was anymore, so apparently it’s no longer made and hasn’t been in some time. Tears! I miss those tiny edible masterpieces, but I’ve found something almost as great: if you’ve never tried Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Turbinado Sea Salt Almonds, you have not lived. As you can see from the photo, they look like little rat turds, but ohhhh, baby, their sorry appearance is misleading! The experience of eating one is better than sex–and you will NOT be able to stop at just one. They should probably be illegal. I even learned how to make them myself, and they are almost as good as Trader Joe’s.
Recipe: Lucky Otter’s Dark Chocolate Almonds Encrusted with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar
Two bars of plain dark gourmet chocolate–I like Ghirardelli’s.
Melt these over low heat until soft–do not allow chocolate to boil.
Set aside about 30-35 almonds, also a dish spread with sea salt, and another dish spread with about 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar.
Take the melted chocolate off the stove, and with a teaspoon, dip and swirl each almond in the chocolate, and then set each on a cookie sheet. Don’t worry if the chocolate makes a little pool around the almonds.
Allow the chocolate to harden but don’t let it harden completely. It should still be soft and malleable. With a teaspoon, coat each almond in the turbinado sugar, and then sprinkle a little sea salt on each. Be careful you don’t overdo it with the salt–there should be more sugar than salt on each almond. You can test a few to see what proportion tastes best, but they won’t taste good if you use too much salt–they should just have a hint of a salty taste.
Place the covered almonds on a dish and refrigerate for about an hour.