Until now, if there's one thing I really missed about English food—more even than my mum's succulent roast beef and Yorkshire puddings—it was the chocolate. So it was in a desperate state, looking for a fix, that I recently stumbled into chocolate shop Sahagún.
While they don't sell the down-market English variety I was looking for, I'm happy to report that thanks to Sahagún, my longing for Brit-choc™—the naughty Turkish Delight, the sublime Crunchie, the basic Fruit and Nut—has now been almost totally expunged, only to be replaced by a worse-than-heroin addiction to the more exotic, $10-a-bar Brazilian stuff. But who cares? It's bloody delicious.
Sahagún, named after the 16th century author of a book on Aztec chocolate- worship, has just celebrated its first anniversary. Though nestled between a porn emporium and a Jaguar dealership, in pricing terms it's closer to its more upscale neighbor than the sex shop. And, like splashing out on a sports car, Sahagún's luxurious chocolate justifies the extra expense.
I began by trying a hot chocolate—made, by mixing melted chocolate with milk. Most shops use cocoa syrups or mixes, but Sahagún's owner, Elizabeth Montes, says these detract from the flavor of her imported gems. The day's special was a complex Venezuelan—on other days this could be switched for an earthier Javan or peppy Brazilian depending on Montes' whim.
At $4, this was the strangest hot chocolate I've ever tried—at first my mouth didn't really understand what was happening—then after three sips the kindly sweetness of the chocolate asserted itself through the rich, whole milk. It was better than driving a Jaguar—I felt gradually transported to an ancient, very adult land in which chocolate was used as medicine and in rituals—not merely passed off as candy for children.
I wanted more, and went for a chunk of Pepitapapa—so called because it combines toasted pumpkin seeds and Ecuadorian chocolate with ground jalapeños, grown in the Mojave Desert by Montes' father, her papa. My $3 chunk began with the full flavor of its toasty, rich, pumpkin seeds, later taken on, but not overpowered, by the jalapeños' oily heat. I was also wowed by some Palomitapapa—made with the same recipe but using crunchy, exploded corn instead of pumpkin seeds.
Next, I was persuaded to try a $2 Steve DeVries truffle. DeVries is an artisan chocolatier from Denver, and Montes has combined his celebrated product into a meaty ganache by adding cream, then coating it with more grated, un-tampered-with DeVries chocolate—I say meaty, because the truffle had a hint of pork flavor to it, which was unexpected, and it had an almost hallucinogenic effect on me.
I topped the whole experience with a luscious caramel for $2.50—its salted hazelnut finish so good I could hardly believe what I was eating, let alone the fact I'd hesitated to pay two and a half bucks for a chocolate barely larger than a Hershey's Kiss.
I took a $10 bar of Brazilian Brut de Sao Tôme to give to my wife, but by the time she got home, I'd gobbled down three-quarters. Sorry, love, this stuff's too good to share—help yourself to some of that Cadbury's I had FedEx-ed over from London last week.