Brian Flick embarked on the chocolate life at age 14. His interest led him through apprenticeship in Portland-area restaurants, a PSU degree and on to a masters degree in Applied Cultural Analysis with a thesis on the Fijian cacao industry. At age 28, he puts the wonk in Willy Wonka.
The Pitchdark Modern American Chocolate factory is nestled at 53rd and NE Sandy Blvd. Flick launched his storefront, which will sell his single-origin chocolate bars and drinking chocolate, while below they will produce high-quality bulk chocolate for other cocoa artisans.
"Cocoa beans have even more flavor elements than coffee or wine grapes," Flick said at the grand opening party. His bars showcase the differences in flavor with batches made from individual plantation sources. He is involved with the process from the hand-picking of the beans through fermentation, roasting, grinding, conching, tempering and forming the chocolate. Many of the steps take place right in his own little chocolate factory.
We sampled the Pitchdark Ecuador Elements of Texture Bar, 73% dark chocolate with hazelnut, Jacobsen sea salt, cacao nibs and chia seed. It has the amazingly silky mouth-feel you won't find in mass-produced candy. Other bars will show the difference in the chocolate between plantations -- one more fruity, one more floral. Imagine nibbling these paired with wine. The bars are also available at select Portland coffee shops.
Pitchdark makes drinking chocolate that is 65% Ecuadoran dark chocolate, milled to crumble into an 8-ounce glass of warm milk or to use in a mocha.
Pitchdark also crafts bulk chocolate at 50, 65 or 73% for other artisans, building the flavor profile to match their needs. We stood next to one of their Cocoatown grinders as it worked away to turn beans into chocolate.
We sampled truffles and a chocolate-dipped fig. It only took a couple of samples for our chocolate cravings to be completely satisfied. Don't seek to satiate yourself with inferior products when you can get the real thing.
Pitchdark Modern American Chocolate: 5353 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, Oregon.