We’re savoring the end of 2011 and want to go out on a sweet note. For inspiration, we stopped in at Cacao in Portland to ask for recommendations on Oregon chocolatiers.  Sasha Freivalds, barista and chocolate connoisseur at the store, walked us through some of her favorite local cocoa creations.

Oregon Bark from Sahagún’s Handmade Chocolates is a combination of Madagascan dark chocolate (64%), hazelnuts and sour cherries. It’s a Portland favorite and very Oregon, we thought. The company also makes a wildly popular Luscious Caramel, which, Freivalds says, “When you eat it in one bite it just explodes.” It’s a popular holiday gift choice (if you are shopping for someone beside yourself).

For the most savory Oregon chocolate, Freivalds pointed us toward the creations of Xocolatl de David. Here you’ll find such concoctions as the Parmigiano-Reggiano bar (72% Cocoa Ecuador), the Bacon Chocolate bar (72% Cocoa Ecuador) and the Olive Oil bar (68% Cocoa Bolivia).

Prize for most unique goes to Cocanú Chocolate. Creator Sebastian Cisneros (who happens to work at Cacao), weaves unexpected flavors like Moonwalk — dark chocolate, cocoa nibs and Pop Rocks — and the unusual Holywood — dark chocolate infused with sweet Palo Santo wood.

Best hands-on effort goes to Woodblock Chocolates, one of the state’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier. Wife and husband team Jessica and Charley Wheelock are turning out varieties like Seventy, Salt Nibs and Salt, hand wrapping each bar after taking raw beans through sorting, roasting, cracking, shelling, grounding, aerating, aging, tempering and pouring. “The quality is fantastic,” says Freivalds.

For more chocolate stories and a selection of Oregon’s artisan chocolate producers, check out this list and sweeten up your December.  And lest we forget…do begin your Oregon-chocolaty adventure right where we started by sampling one of Cacao’s delicious drinking and hot chocolates.

Editor’s Note: For a celebration of all things chocolate, head over to the Oregon Chocolate Festival taking place March 2-4 at the Ashland Springs Hotel.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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