I recently enjoyed a short little piece in the Spring Fashion issue of New York Magazine called "Give Me Sodium or Give Me Death" -- written by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef at Prune. She was writing about salt as a sort of response to Bloomberg's recent crackdown, and her justification of her liberal salting policies can be summed up by this line: "Salt makes everything it touches taste more like itself -- from an egg to a steak to a tomato." So, given that this bar, given to me by my friend Christopher, is basically bathed in salt, I kept Hamilton's lesson in mind throughout my week of consumption.
B.T. McElrath Chocolatier: Prairie Dog Chocolate Bar
Cocoa content: 40%
Notable ingredients: toffee, almonds, sea salt
This bar, like last week's, was made by a company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, yes -- that state actually does exist, and people seem to be eating chocolate there. The bar is called Prairie Dog, but it seems to have another name, sort of sheepishly printed on the side of the box: "Silky Frisky Almond Pal." I think almonds were actually the least present flavor in this chocolate -- salt being the most present and butter toffee coming in second. Salt is obviously laced throughout, but the bottom of the bar is actually dusted with gigantic, visible crystals of sea salt, such that when you put a piece in your mouth it's the first thing your tongue encounters -- unless you eat chocolate upside down, in which case stop reading because I'm not here to fuck around.
"A hint of sea salt," reads the back of the bar, in the understatement of the century. But why does salt work here so well -- and, believe me, it does -- while in other circumstances there is a thin line between perfection and excess? I think the heft of the bar in a way makes up for what could be perceived as over-salting in a thinner, more delicate bar. There's no snap to speak of: the pieces are big and chunky and basically bursting with shards of butter toffee. I approached it more as a candy bar -- kind of like a cleaned-up Butterfinger, I guess -- than as a bar of chocolate, so I really enjoyed the decadence.
Did the sea salt make the other ingredients taste more like themselves? Well, it's kind of hard to tell. Everything blended together in salty, decadent majesty. I think the reason it all held together was that the chocolate was so good and so plentiful. The state of Minnesota has fed me well this winter, and for that I'm glad to have known the Prairie Dog. A.