Expert tips for savoring the indulgence

Of course you know how to eat chocolate – who doesn’t? But as you indulge on your dark chocolate bar, are you really getting the most enjoyment out of it? Are you really tasting it, or just devouring it at warp speed?

Chocolate is a wonderful indulgence, and can be a great way to take a quick break from life’s hectic pace. Much like wine tasting, there is an art to experiencing dark chocolate. By learning to be a more observant and descriptive taster, you can enjoy dark chocolate even more than you already do.

Tasting dark chocolate is all about slowing down and letting the chocolate engage all your senses, according to Alice Medrich, an expert on chocolate. “Open your mind to any thoughts, ideas or descriptions that may occur to you as you taste,” she says.

Medrich offers a few tasting techniques to help get the most out of your dark chocolate experience:

* Break off a little piece and listen to the sound of the break. That “snap” stimulates anticipation for the taste and pleasure to come, but a sharp snap is also one of the criteria for good dark chocolate.

* Rub the piece with your thumb to warm it and release its aroma. Cup it in your hands and sniff. Some of the first clues of the flavor are in the nose.

* Place the piece in your mouth and, without chewing, move it around on your tongue. This will cause your mouth to fill with flavor. Savor the melt and notice the texture. More premium chocolates will have a smooth texture.

* Chew the chocolate slowly. Allowing more time with each of the various flavors intensifies the experience. What you taste first is different from what you’ll taste later, so slow down and enjoy.

Now that you know how to get the most out of your dark chocolate, think about what flavors you enjoy tasting the most. Ever wish you could get creative and custom-design a dark chocolate treat to your tastes? You can if you take part in the Ghirardelli Intense Dark “Bring Your Dark to Light” contest, which runs through June 30 at Explore different flavors and choose up to three ingredients you think will make the perfect next Intense Dark flavor.

Medrich, along with two other expert judges, Jonathan Lindenauer from Bon Appetit magazine and Ghirardelli’s own head chocolate maker, Kevin Tamaki, will select five creations, which will compete for your votes later this summer, but only one will be crowned the next Intense Dark flavor.

“I’ll be looking for flavors and textures that work so well together, that the combination seems even greater than the sum of the parts,” says Medrich. “I like the chocolate to be the star and the last flavor on my palate and am hoping for flavors that enhance without overwhelming the chocolate. This contest is all about balance, taste and imagination.”

Visit for more details and to submit your flavor. (ARAcontent)