I have noticed a lot of breweries opening up. I love it. Inside, you can see how your beer is made, what a great ambiance! All the boilers and machines really touch my engineering background. Well guess what else we can make from scratch? CHOCOLATE!
OMG! Yes! Southern California’s first and only bean to bar chocolate factory is open! ChocXO (pronounced choc-zo) has done something revolutionary for our area. Inside this venue, located in Irvine, you will be greeted immediately with the rich aroma of fresh chocolate. Over the main bar area is a hopper shaped ceiling design (it gives a fun feel). On the far wall from the entrance are some observation windows. Here, you can see the magic happening! From the refined cocoa beans into the delicious liquid chocolate bar, the machines press, warm, grind, and conche right in front of you! They start by importing fine flavor beans into their factory, which are the top 15% of beans in the world for flavor and quality. After being cleaned and prepped for the machines, they are placed right in those tanks in front of you! They are roasted, shelled and turned into nibs (they even put nibs in the champagne at our media event, it was delicious). The nibs in the champagne were analogous to salted nuts with beer. Another machine grinds the nibs into a paste called chocolate liquor. Next, sugar is added and the mixture is roller refined into a powder called chocolate flake and then the entire mixture is conched (it is kind of like a mixing devise), and then voila! You have your pure liquid chocolate! I was very impressed to see his happen right before my eyes. White chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate covered Oreos, they even put chocolate in the champagne! Speaking to Richard Foley, CEO and lead Chocolatier, I can see his passion for chocolate. He is a third generation chocolate expert, his brother and himself share a heritage of chocolate. He also employs Jeff Stern, his operations manager who has spent most of his life working with chocolate (mostly in Central America). These guys have chocolate in their blood! One of my favorite things about this place is the artistry and craftsmanship. For example, dark chocolates usually are too bitter for me, or they have too much of a kick, which I learned is due to too much acidity in the chocolate. At ChocXO, I learned how their factory equitpment measures and eliminates the acidity while preserving the bold chocolate flavor. They are pleasantly surprising. In order to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience, you have to go for yourself.
The cranberry and pistachio organic dark chocolate bark tasted surprisingly well. It was a bulk chocolate, not in bar or single serving form. It had a soft taste, the cranberries masking the strong dark cacao.
The cocoa coffee toffee organic milk chocolate is sweet and soft. My favorite part about it is that somehow, it did not get stuck in your teeth!
The assorted fruits and nuts dark chocolate is the epitome pleasantly surprising. You may think the dark chocolate would overpower the fruity taste, or vice versa, but these master craftsmen have blended the tastes perfectly, it is not as overpowering as you may think. Very smooth, yet still bold.
The candied peanuts and pretzels organic milk chocolate bark was soft and crunchy, but the smooth blend of flavors between the pretzels and milk chocolate allowed a blend that did not over accentuate the saltine of the pretzels or the sweetness of the chocolate. The flavors melded perfectly.
The roasted almonds with sea salt organic dark chocolate bark follows the same trend as the other chocolates, it is blended well. There is so much thought put into these chocolates, this is a perfect example of that. The dark chocolate matches the almond and salt taste well, if it were milk chocolate in stead of dark, it would not compliment the tastes as well.
The caramelized hazelnuts organic milk chocolate was not as sticky as one might think with the usual caramelized chocolates. It was smooth, holding true to its caramel essence, but it had a nice crunch from its hazelnut soul.
Now to the single chocolate “bites” they offer. These are not only good to eat, but they look amazing too! I love the presentation at this place!:
The organic milk chocolate maple whiskey was milky smooth! The addition of the Canadian maple syrup made it very sweet, but the splash of whiskey added a perfect little kick.
The spicy peanut butter and jelly was one of my favorites because it tasted just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Using raspberry jelly enrobed in 70% dark chocolate and topped with candied peanuts and caramelized hazelnuts, this is going to be an instant favorite for many chocolate connoisseurs. The spicy you ask, well the cayenne peppers do not give a hot spicy kick, just a warm aftertaste. Perfect!
The organic dark chocolate mojito had a very minty taste with a smooth, bitter aftertaste. It tasted exactly like a mojito. Perfect summer chocolate while sitting on a beach somewhere in the world….
The organic milk chocolate lemon raspberry tasted and felt just like a slice lemon cake. Upon further investigation, I discovered that although covered by a 70% dark chocolate shell, it is actually a white chocolate ganash with fresh lemon and lemon zest, topped with a raspberry organic milk chocolate layer. This depth within this bite sized chocolate piece is what creates its unique and thick taste.
The organic milk chocolate crispy praline had a very strong nutty taste, for those who are looking for that kind of kick.
The organic milk chocolate vanilla chai is another one of those chocolates that taste exactly how you think it would from the name: exactly like a Starbucks drink. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside and is perfect for the holiday season.
The organic white chocolate pistachio is one of my favorites! I have a soft spot in my heart for white chocolate, and it has a very strong white chocolate taste with a pistachio undertone. It is milky, smooth, and sweet! It even has a cool digital looking design on it!
The organic milk chocolate sea salted caramel had a strong caramel overtone with a soft salty undertone. I would think that the sea salt would only go well with dark chocolate, but using a 37% organic milk chocolate, this was a nice blend. It had a cool blue Tetris looking design on it!
The organic dark chocolate espresso is for those bold at heart. It tastes like a rich coffee with an espresso shot, very accurately described!
The organic milk chocolate salted hazelnut was a very soft salty, soft hazelnut taste. I like how ChocXO does not overdo it on the salt, but I was pleasantly surprised with the soft taste of the hazelnut. It is because the milk chocolate is blended with pure hazelnut butter, so it is a lot smoother.
The organic dark chocolate sea salted caramel was a very bold chocolate. The strong flavor of the sea salt compliments the dark chocolate with a smooth feel.
The organic dark chocolate grand marnier was a bold blue semi sphere. It had a smooth liqueur taste. With its shiny blue shell, it is a fancy delight!
The organic dark cherry bomb is the opposite of a chocolate filled cherry! The dark chocolate eclipses the cherry flavor perfectly, and the hint of champagne finishes the taste adventure this chocolate provides.
The organic milk chocolate orange was pleasantly surprising. It did not taste like one of those chocolate orange things (those are too bitter!). This tasted more like an orange creamsicle. It was delicious.
The organic milk chocolate cinnamon bun tasted just like a cinnamon bun. Not too chocolaty, not too much cinnamon, it had a very warm filling feeling. Another perfect desert for the holiday season!
The organic milk chocolate passion fruit had a cool pink Tetris top to it (I love how ChocXO decorates its chocolates!) It tasted just like a sweet craft cocktail you could get at your local bar.
If you have read through this entire guide to ChocXO’s chocolate lineup, you probably love chocolate as much as I do. Probably enough to check out ChocXO and experience it for yourself. And keep going back, I hear that they may have chocolate making seminars, and event banquet space someday soon……just let them know, you heard it here first ;). ChocXO will make you feel like you got your own golden ticket