I've always said that, for me, one of the best things about growing up in a Third World country, is my exposure and ability to appreciate things of exceptional quality to the downright dubious. Take chocolate, for instance. I'm pretty sure that the richest, most spoiled kid in Forbes Park and the lowliest beggar on the street share a love for ChocNut - which is not universal, as I found out when my Spanish friend spat it out at a high-end salon that was offering the treat for free.
I lovelovelove ChocNut. When Selecta came out with ChocNut ice cream, I could consume half a gallon of it in one sitting. If they hadn't discontinued it, I would probably have been launched into outer space by now, as my own planet.
At the Sayak Airport in Siargao, I was thrilled to discover things like fudge-filled sponge cakes in different flavors (our version of the Twinkie), which only cost P10 apiece!
In Siquijor, I found this:
Baby Ruth copyright infringement issues aside, I swear it's pretty damned good.
I also love Flat Tops and Choco Mallows and Choco Crunchies and Choco Pretzels... How much actual chocolate there is in any of these products is anybody's guess though.
Before I left Manila, however, I chanced upon a Chocolate Festival at Eastwood Mall. I was expecting the usual cakes and pastries but was surprised to find people selling chocolate bars. Apparently, cocoa beans only grow in places within 20 degrees of the equator. "We grow the beans in the Philippines," one of the chocolatiers told me, "so there really is no reason why we shouldn't be producing good quality chocolate here."
Enter the age of Philippine "Artisanal" Chocolates. <cue trumpets>
I already had the Malagos Cocoa Nibs, which I got on sale at Taste Central and transported to Siargao a while back for my trail mix... <cut to photo of still-full bag of cocoa nibs>
...but I did buy other samples at the Chocolate Festival:
I bought all three, which were very good but, at P100 per box, I thought they were a bit expensive. Of course, I'm still coming from the P10 mentality, forgetting that this is supposed to be a premium product.
- Risa Chocolates
This was my favorite. If I remember correctly, it was about P100/bar. It was a bit too spicy, but that only left me wanting more. Best when cold as then the bacon isn't rubbery. Might be improved with larger chunks of bacon. (Anything is improved by larger chunks of bacon.)
I got the Chili, Sea Salt, and Cappuccino (- listed in order of my preference), but the Cappuccino wrapper was the only one I remembered to save. As you can see, there is no brand on it, just a website. Upon checking it out, it seems to be a company that will produce bars of chocolate with personalized wrappers to order. Whatever. The Chili wasn't as spicy as Risa's Bacon Chili, but spicy enough for me. The Sea Salt could stand more salt, and the Cappuccino would be have been better if it were subtler. But at P50/bar, who cares?
Theo & Philo was being sold at the same stall as the Unit 16 chocolates so I'm not sure if they're one and the same or if they're sister companies or completely separate entities.
Now that the Philippines is upping its standards when it comes to chocolate, I hope that we still continue to produce the sub-standard stuff our childhoods were made of, like those gold chocolate coins and chocolate footballs...