Small Batch Sweets: Askinosie Chocolates

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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

I'm game to try anything that's spicy and sweet, especially when the sweet portion is coming from chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate's Dark Milk Chocolate + Ancho Chile & Pistachio Bar fits the bill, combining ancho chili, dark chocolate, goat's milk, pistachios, and Maldon sea salt flakes.

The flavor combination is inspired by Katharine Kagel's James Beard Award-winning restaurant in Santa Fe, Cafe Pasqual's, which the Askinosie family have been visiting for years. The goat's milk is not particularly discernible—and I was actually interested in trying chocolate with a little funk—but that's OK. It makes itself known in the smoothness of the chocolate, which does have the typical bitter, complex notes of dark chocolate thanks to a base of 62% dark chocolate sourced from the Philippines, yet at the same time has a pleasing, milky roundness. The real joy in this bar is that the chili slowly creeps up and asserts itself in the back of your throat, its heat elevated by the sea salt flakes. (There's nothing worse than a "spicy" chocolate bar that's meek and mild.) The crunch of the sea salt is mirrored in the crunch of the pistachios, which are always a good pairing with chocolate. Spicy, sweet, crunchy, and a bit nutty, there's a lot going on in every bite—a good thing for a bar that costs $9.

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Worth noting is that Askinosie is a leader in the movement of chocolate-makers who have an open book policy about bean sourcing and a commitment to fair and direct trade with farmers. If you visit their website, you can see the region that the beans were sourced from (Davao, Philippines, for this bar) as well as the lead farmer for the crop (Peter Cruz). The chocolates are available for purchase online.

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