The west coast is blessed with many blessings, not the least of which is oceanfront real estate. An abundance of beaches naturally sets each one up to differentiate itself in a certain way. Form its own identity.
From Malibu to Long Beach, Los Angeles beaches stand alone with personalities that mirror their inhabitants – and tend to lure in more of the same. Venice Beach is a perfect example of this uniqueness. Only more so.
The ocean and the moonlight were lovely as ever, but the energy was definitely winding down for the night. A gaggle of skaters cruised around the skate park by the beach. A tarot card reader told someone’s fortune on the boardwalk (both seated on the ground).
8pm is probably not the best time to visit a new place, but it is a gorgeous time to watch the last lights of the sunset over the Pacific and get your toes wet. I managed a few low-light photos with what remained.
I want to go back to Venice. The free-spirited, colorful and maybe kinda weird vibe of the place is a perspective that bears further investigation. As it was, I spent about ten minutes there.
I didn’t stay longer.
Because I was running late.
ChocoVivo, just ten minutes east of Venice is the first bean to bar chocolate manufacturer I’ve found in LA. What is a bean to bar manufacturer? Quite simply, ChocoVivo makes chocolate from cocoa beans. Every step of the chocolate making process is done on site. As opposed to melting down previously processed chocolate (called couverture) and fashioning it into delectable treats, ChocoVivo buys the beans, roasts the beans, grinds the beans, and then creates wonderful things out of the beans.
If you’ve ever experienced negative consequences from eating chocolate, give these guys a try. Often negative reactions can be attributed to other ingredients commonly added to most commercially available chocolate. ChocoVivo is just chocolate.
And it’s popular. Even thirty minutes before closing, the diminutive monument to the love of cacao was full of customers, with more popping in for an evening treat before heading home. Overwhelmed by the dizzying display of stone ground chocolate options, I needed a moment to collect myself.
ChocoVivo won my heart with its hot chocolate menu. Between base liquids, recipe style and stone ground chocolate variety, they had a hot chocolate to suit my every mood.
I opted for the 65% Cacao in water – simple and smooth. Sweet enough to taste like a treat, but light enough to get a real mouthful of that rustic chocolate flavor. The resulting beverage was a classic chocolate drink – frothy and full of flavor, with character and substance.
It did not last long.
Another cool thing ChocoVivo does is a Tasting Menu. Order 1, 3, 6 or all 13 varieties of their chocolate bars in small chunks for tasting. It comes with a guide denoting which flavor is which, so if you fall in love with one you know where to find more.
I bought a pack of all 13 – a steal at $10 for two pieces of each – to take home and taste test at a time when I could be more focused. For purposes of brevity, I’ll just describe 3 of them.
I had to try the 100% bar (top left – Number 1 in the photo above). This is 100% what comes out of the bean – no sugar or sweetener whatsoever. The flavor of a 100% bar relies heavily on the type of beans used and the roasting process, since a great roast draws out the natural sweetness of the bean.
Even so, it’s a highly savory result. And this is no exception.
Such a deep, powdery finish and intense flavor. It was less buttery than I was expecting – but satisfying in that powerful chocolate burst. Intricate.
Next I tried the Shangri-La (bottom middle – Number 10 on the list). A nutty combination of black sesame and goji berries. Wow. A really delicious and unusual flavor – the sesame really comes through in the first bite, and tastes great with the chocolate.
Chocolate and sesame. Who knew?
Lastly, I tried the Coffee and Vanilla Bean (bottom right – Number 13). This one’s a winner too! Like putting solid coffee in your mouth. Really intense coffee chocolate flavor, with just a hint of vanilla. Very lightly sweet. So good.
This is a unique experience! Definitely treat your taste buds to ChocoVivo soon.
You can order your own stone ground chocolate bars, nibs, powders and butters from ChocoVivo’s online store or drop by for a visit.
And don’t forget to spend a little time on the beach while you’re at it.