Hot Chocolate — no, not that kind

Good food and good music are luxuries in every culture. Have been throughout recorded history. So it makes sense that Vermont-based Lake Champlain Chocolates decided to work with Vermont band Grace Potter & the Nocturnals to produce a limited edition chocolate bar.

They wanted something hot, so this is a dark chocolate bar with pistachios and red pepper. Yes, red pepper.

Now before you get excited and start warming up your credit card, keep in mind that it’s still August, and this will be coming from Vermont. Unless you live in the Northeast you’ll have to pay for expedited shipping. What’s that look like? (I’m showing all this because I never really thought about what it takes to ship chocolate in the summer.)

Here’s the box I got.


And inside was a thermal wrap, around a smaller box and a pair of ice packs.

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Here’s that smaller box.


And inside it, a bunch of bubble wrap and, finally …


The chocolate bar!


Inside the box, I’ve got a golden ticket!


Nope, just a nice, thick dark chocolate bar.


So how does it taste?

First, a little history

The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. These people, including the Maya and Aztec, mixed ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink.

Some people are reviving the original style and adding red pepper to hot chocolate. So this combination isn’t some far-out publicity stunt, but actually a fairly old combination. Specifically it’s 54% dark chocolate, red pepper, pistachio and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.

I love dark chocolate, and for most people 54% is pretty dark. When a chocolate bar lists a percentage, that’s how much of it is cocoa. So a 54% bar is 54% chocolate, and the rest is other ingredients. My current favorite is Lindt 85%, so 54% is just barely into the “dark” range for me.


The Grace bar had a nice, rich flavor, not too sweet like I’m used to from most chocolate. I got a hint of the cinnamon, but wondered where the red pepper was. Then I swallowed it.

The heat built slowly from the back of the tongue and warmed my whole mouth. It wasn’t overpowering, almost like I had just sipped hot cocoa. It’s really interesting how flavor and temperature can cause such a similar sensation.

Jenn tried it, and she wasn’t too thrilled with it. Although she did admit that she wasn’t feeling too good, and was just tasting it as a favor to me so I’d have another point of view. And she’s not a dark chocolate fan in any case.

But Winnie, the 10-year-old, is a dark chocolate fan. I have to hide the Lindt from her if I want to get any. She loved it at first, then when the heat came on she reached for some milk. She said it was unexpected. (I might have forgotten to mention that there was pepper in it. Oops.) Not bad, just unexpected. She agreed it felt almost like you had just sipped hot cocoa.

“Sip” is actually a really good word for this. One of the reasons I like dark chocolate is that the intense flavor satisfies the craving after only a bite or two. You don’t have to eat the whole bar. This one takes that a bit further. Some people describe bourbon as “sipping whiskey”. This is a “sipping chocolate”. You wouldn’t sit and eat the whole bar in one go.

I took a few pieces to some neighbors for another opinion. Kathy likes spicy food, and thought this was delicious. Miles is a dark chocolate fan, and also liked it. Maybe not as enthusiastic as Kathy, but he’s not the kind of guy to get all excited about a candy bar.


I wouldn’t pay the expedited shipping charges just to get one bar of this. But Lake Champlain has a really full catalog. If the rest of it is as good as the Grace Under Fire bar, maybe you could stock up for the holidays.

If you’re interested here’s where you can buy the chocolate.

More about the band

Grace and the band’s drummer, Matt, went to the factory to make a bar themselves. (If you can’t see the video in your reader, check it out on the blog.)

If you liked the music in that clip, here’s the video for the single ‘Tiny Light’ off the band’s self titled album, and an acoustic rendition of ‘Low Road’, also off the new album, which you can buy here.

And here’s an appearance on Ellen, and in Rolling Stone as one of the Best New Bands of 2010.