Chocolate appreciation class is a sweet assignment
By Arlene Colcombe

Chocolatier Laurie Rose displays chunks of chocolate.
To a true chocoholic, very few things are better than chocolate. Such were the attendees at the Collier County Library's presentation called, "How to Taste Chocolate".

Presenter Laurie Rose of Olde Naples Chocolate handed out chocolate "quizzes" to give everyone a chance to see how much they really knew, while "I hope there are samples," was heard in loud whispers around the room. Questions ranged from the best way to store chocolate to its history and ingredients.

Not surprisingly, the group was mostly women, interspersed with a few adventurous men and dutiful husbands.

Chocolate is best stored in a cool, dry place at about 67 degrees. The refrigerator is acceptable, but may dry chocolate out. Fortunately, those white spots that sometimes appear on the chocolate surface are not harmful; they are just cocoa butter crystals that have risen to the surface. Dark chocolate will last longer than milk chocolate.

It was welcome nutritional news to learn that chocolate is suddenly considered healthy in some ways. It is true that consuming one to two ounces of chocolate daily can benefit your health.

The darker the chocolate, the better. Chocolate contains zinc, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin and calcium, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Stearic acid in the cocoa butter may lower cholesterol. Nitric oxide is associated with healthy blood flow. Some also believe that it raises serotonin levels in the brain, a natural "feel-good" anti-depressant. A chemical called phenylethyamine produces a little lift and a sense of well-being or slight euphoria, like falling in love. Unfortunately, some of these same chemicals can be toxic to dogs.

Later, samples of a few varieties of chocolate were handed out as a grateful audience savored them. These ranged from the most common milk chocolate, at 35 percent cocoa, to the preferred dark chocolate at 62 percent, to the 65 to 70 percent extra dark, a taste that must be acquired.

Fine wine should never be gulped, and good chocolate should never be just chewed up and swallowed. Rather, it should be savored slowly and allowed to melt in your mouth. Chocolate melts at 98 degrees, the temperature of your body.

Rose had always wanted to have her own shop and now she does, as the owner of Olde Naples Chocolate, since 2003. Her chocolate expertise is largely self-taught through trial and error, but also through classes hosted by chocolate organizations.

Rose also noted that although women are the number one consumers of chocolate, most of her customers in the store are men. It is an indication, she feels, that most men want their women to be happy more than they want them to be svelte. As with most good things in life, she cautions, "All in moderation."

The presentation was one offering of the Collier County Public Library's summer programs. Others include classic, foreign and documentary films, computer classes, dance, hurricane preparedness, a series of family fun programs and many more. Information is available at all library branches. For more information call 263-0177, or visit www.collier

Olde Naples Chocolate is located at 1305 Third St. South, in downtown Naples. For information or special orders call Laurie Rose at 239 262-3975.


ŠNaples Sun Times 2007