Intrigue Chocolate Co. owner and Chocolatier Aaron Barthel didn't come to chocolate making by way of the kitchen. Instead, it was all the plant aroma and flavors he discovered in botany.
"I found a recipe in a horticulture magazine," says Barthel who started making chocolate for fun about 12 years ago. "I haven't had any culinary training, so I started with the herbal aspect."
Barthel tells KIRO Radio's Seattle Kitchen Show that many think of herbs as savory, but there are many that are sweet. He uses a 70 percent dark Belgian chocolate base to try out as many different flavors as he can find.
"When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a mad scientist and I guess I kind of took that on. So now I walk into a spice shop and I want a little bit of everything," he says. "I take it back to the shop with me and I play with it."
He starts out with an herb's aroma. "Sometimes when I'm working on a combination, I'll take two jars at a time and I'll smell them both at different distances from my nose to see which one's stronger and which one I want more of or less of."
Taste and texture are also important. Barthel likes to test his new chocolate flavors with a cup of tea.
"I make tea, and then I eat some chocolate while I drink the tea. That's how I know if it works or not."
So far Barthel has made 180 flavors of chocolate truffles. They have at least 12 varieties at Intrigue at any one time, and the varieties are always changing.
"At Intrigue, we celebrate discovery and encourage the habit of exploration, enrichment, and enjoyment," says the store's website.