Robert Nalbandov, a retired professor, author, and expert in political culture-turned-chocolate maker, handcrafts a line of bean-to-bar chocolate bars he’s named ChokoSpice. The confections (between 60 and 84 percent cacao) are produced from organic beans from the Dominican Republic and mixed with spices, some embedded with dried fruits. Coconut sugar gives the bars a pleasing grainy texture and subtle sweetness that allows the flavorings to shine. Crafting the chocolate at the Worcester Regional Food Hub, Nalbandov fashions one bar with cardamom and apricots; another has Szechuan peppercorns and Cape Cod cranberries, which creates a lovely contrast of zesty spice and sweetness. Dark chocolate combined with Mahleb, a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern powder ground from cherry pits, has a subtle, intriguing flavor ($6 for 2 ounces). All are nut-, gluten-, and dairy free. After Nalbandov retired from his work, he says, “ I wanted to focus on something more personal and productive.” He studied chocolate making in Milan with master chocolate maker Massimo Peruzzini and at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Nalbandov was born in the country of Georgia, wedged between Asia and Europe, and for years studied and worked in various countries — tasting chocolate everywhere he traveled. Now he lives in Belmont, but through his journeys, he says, he developed a passion for spices of diverse cuisines. “Everywhere food is part of culture and spices are a staple,” says Nalbandov. Beautifully designed wrappers give you the cue that there’s a worthy indulgence inside. Available at Au Chocolat, 35 High St., Boston, 617-737-1197; Gourmet Boutique, 10 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-266-2906; Cambridge Naturals, 92 Guest St. Boston, 617-208-8881; Pemberton Farms Marketplace, 2225 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-491-2244; Debra’s Natural Gourmet, 98 Comm. Ave., Concord, 978- 371-7573, and more, or visit www.chokospice.com.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.