Good & Evil isn't just any candy bar. It's the most anticipated bar of chocolate in years, and the brainchild of a trifecta of top chefs. It's also $18.
Is any candy, even the filet minion of candy, worth that price? We tried it and found out…but more on that later.
On Friday, Christopher Curtin, chocolatier and owner of Éclat Chocolate, released Good & Evil, a bar he created with culinary-rock-stars-turned-TV-stars Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. Availble for order at Eclat's website and select speciality stores around the country, the bar has been the subject of speculation on foodie sites for weeks. What ingredients will make it both good and evil? Habanero chilies? Chunks of sea salt? Zaatar and rhubarb?
None of the above. It's simply 72% percent cacao dark chocolate speckled with white and purple cacao nibs. Of course, that cacao is some of the rarest and most flavorful in the world.
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The story goes that Ripert and Curtin traveled to Marañón Canyon, in the Peruvian Andes Mountains to trace the elusive Pure Nacional colony of trees, once believed to be extinct, and currently believed to be a goldmine of flavor among elite chocolate lovers.
The blend of bitter cocoa and those elusive Peruvian nibs forms the framework of Good & Evil--the candy--
though according to Bourdain and Ripert, it's also the basis of their moral codes.
The whole foodie explanation behind the name sounds like the kind of thing born over a long night of drinking (and Curtin, tells Yahoo! Shine, it was). The flavors are supposed to reflect Ripert's belief in the "good" properties of food, and Bourdain's infatuation with the idea of food being so good it's "evil." Curtin, the Philidelphia-based master chocolatier, synthesized the polar ideas into one bar.
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Are you still there? After an informal focus group (I took the bar, appropriately, to a bar) the name makes more sense. The price of the bar is evil. The flavor is good. In fact, it's more than good: it's full-bodied, smooth and intense. The cacao nibs give the bar a bitter twist, and the smooth, rich cocoa leaves a finish on your tongue.
Here's what other folks who snapped off a piece of the $18 bar had to say about it: "Oh that's really good." "I just ate three dollars there." Also: "I can imagine if you're really into chocolate this bar is amazing."
One person made the comment that ended up being our general consensus: "It's really delicious, but not the best chocolate bar I've ever tasted."
Bare in mind, there was a lot of build-up before the tasting even started. Good & Evil comes wrapped in its own luggage--a cardboard collector's box with a number on the back, indicating it is one of the 3,000 or so in existence. Because of the rarity and costs of producing the bar from the Peruvian cacao beans, there is only a small amount in production. Once you get past the candy's outside box, there's an airtight wrapper that requires scissors to open. That's to protect the hallowed chocolate from oxidizing on shelves. The chocolate itself, stamped in squares with a cacao bean mold, is much thinner and lighter in heft than its other dark chocolate competitors, but the richness and architecture of the flavors are all there.
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In the past few years, chocolate bar competition has gotten steep--and eclectic. Most grocery store checkout lines boast at least one artisan bar alongside your classic Hershey's and Twix. We've come along way from the days of "fancy" Symphony bars with toffee chips. Ingredients include crystallized ginger, sea salt, bacon. Labels boast cacao sourced from distant rainforests and percentages that require a graphing calculator to understand. The high-end snacks, priced at eight or ten dollars, have replaced low-fat Peppermint Patties as the new guilt-free indulgence. (Antioxidants! Exotic locales! Important chefs!) The trend has had its share of backlash.
"I long for the days when the only choices were Hershey's and Nestle," writes Jason Kessler, a Bon Appetit blogger. "It's not that I don't appreciate the time and effort that goes into carefully sourcing and producing a fancy-schmancy chocolate bar; it's that it all seems more like a marketing ploy than a genuine effort to make the perfect chocolate bar."
So maybe Good & Evil is the iPad of chocolate bars. Big box, thin product, a lot of buzz, and for those cult-followers, worth every penny. That is, until a newer version comes along.